Industry expects ‘soft’ restart from May 17

Any restart of travel on May 17 is likely to be “soft”, say industry leaders, after the government published its Global Travel Taskforce report and stopped insisting people not book overseas holidays.

The report proved disappointing. One industry source slammed “the conservatism of the tiers, especially green” under the new traffic-light system. Quarantine will remain for arrivals from amber countries and expensive PCR tests for arrivals from green.

Jet2holidays pushed its restart back to June 24 as a result, although Tui and easyJet holidays still plan for May 17.

A source involved with the taskforce said: “We need a lot more to restart at scale. Amber is 10 days self-isolation with test to release which seems draconian. Green we can work with if we can get the costs down. Testing is the area we’ll focus on.”

But the source said: “We want to work with the government and get this over the line. Everybody is jumping up and down, but the government indicated it could make changes. The work is not complete.

“They had to produce the report sooner than they were ready. If not for the situation in Europe it would look different. The review points will be vital.”

There were calls for the government to publish the data and thresholds for categorising countries. The source said: “They’ve given the criteria. We suspect they won’t publish the thresholds because people will take these as definitive when there are ‘soft’ criteria [such as] trust in other countries’ data.

“It isn’t what everyone wants, but few countries have put this kind of framework on the table and everyone is feeling their way. The story is far from over. The point has been made loud and clear that we need more. We have the building blocks, but we need a more robust re-opening plan. There will be intense activity over the next weeks.”

Another industry taskforce source said: “PCR tests are impractical because of the cost and will make management at the border tricky. Manual checks will be impossible.”

But they noted: “We almost had two PCR tests [for green-list arrivals]. The Department of Health and Public Health England lobbied for a second.”

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye told Travel Weekly: “May 17 will probably be a soft launch if it’s the date we start. Then the review at the end of June will be very important.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive, said: “It’s a matter of waiting. Travel will resume. [But] anybody booking from May 17 is doing so without any certainty – 60% of everything our members are selling now is for September onward.”

Alan Bowen of the Association of Atol Companies agreed: “I’m assuming something will happen on May 17, but most people think September will be the earliest they see anything much.”

In a positive development, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon fuelled hopes of a coordinated start across the UK when she announced on Tuesday: “We hope to agree rules for international travel on a four nations’ basis.” However, she said: “It may be we have to endure restrictions on international travel for a bit longer.”

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